[Wittrs] Re: Dualism Cooties: Is Property Dualism Always Fatal?

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 08 Mar 2010 04:43:26 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Joseph Polanik <jPolanik@...> wrote:

> yes, we've had this argument before, Stuart; but, you continue to rely
> on linguistic sleight of hand to make your case that Searle (or some
> other philosopher) has dualism cooties.
> the fallacy involves these steps:
> 1: observing some evidence of property dualism in the works of the
> target philosopher.

I never refer to what you call property dualism so there is your first 
misreading (or, if not the first, at least the first in this go-round). By now 
it should be clear that my reference to Searle's CRA involves the assertion 
that it is implicitly dualist in the sense of presuming that consciousness must 
be ontologically basic, what you like to call, using the somewhat archaic 
formulation, "substance dualism". That others have accused Searle of being a 
property dualist (and that he has denied it) is irrelevant to the point I have 
made. What looks like "sleight of hand" to you is just a failure to see my 
point (or to admit seeing it).

> 2: dropping the qualifying word 'property' when describing the target
> philosophers position as 'dualism'.

No, my reference is to what YOU call "substance dualism". At one point I said 
that was the crux of Dennett's argument against Searle, too, and you told me 
you could find no evidence of that in Dennett's Consciousness Explained which 
we were then discussing. I went back, transcribed the pertinent text onto this 
list, thereby giving you the evidence, at which point you lost interest. The 
point of my giving you the evidence was to re-emphasize that what I am talking 
about vis a vis Searle has nothing to do with allegations of "property dualism" 
and that, in fact, I agree with Searle's point that property dualism, if it 
really is any serious kind of dualism boils down to the ontological kind I have 
been talking about. Now Walter could well be right in his claim that no 
self-respectivn property dualist really means THAT kind of dualism and that 
Searle, therefore, was misstating what a property dualist is. If that is so, 
then it is certainly arguable that those who accuse Searle of being a property 
dualist are right but then, on my view, Searle would be right in discounting 
that as dualism at all.

> 3: defining 'dualism' in such a way (eg by the examples you gave) that
> it is co-extensive with the traditional definition of 'substance
> dualism'.

The mere fact that there is a word in common between the two theses ("dualism") 
doesn't mean they represent the same thing. If property dualism involves 
properties that are irreducible, then it doesn't matter whether those 
properties were belatedly brought into existence by something else or if they 
were always present, albeit in some hidden form. That would be dualism of the 
ontological basic variety. If, on the other hand, the properties referred to 
are simply appearances or aspects of something else of a very different sort, 
then they ARE reducible to that something else, in which case it isn't dualism 
in any way that matters.

Indeed, it is fair to say there is a multiplicity of existents in the universe 
if consider anything we can name that has some capacity to be real an existent. 
Thus we have meanings and ideas and institutions and processes and forces and 
so forth. But that isn't relevant to the question of what underlies all 
existents. What we call matter, physical objects and their properties are as 
much an appearance as all the rest. The question is what underlies them all? Is 
there a basic physical reality (however strange it may seem to us conceptually 
when compared to the everyday reality that confronts our senses) and, if so, 
then does consciousness, along with the rest of the things we find in the 
universe reduce to it? Or not? If consciousness does, then you no longer have 
dualism (even if you do have a multiplicity of phenomena, of appearances, of 
aspects). If it doesn't, if consciousness is somehow co-existent with the rest 
of whatever it is that underlies the physical things of the universe but is not 
reducible to it (or them), then you do.

That's all this is about.

> the fallacy might be called the fallacy of covertly redefining a term in
> mid argument.

Except that isn't what has occurred. You asserted that I called Searle a 
property dualist and I said I didn't. You asserted that I failed to distinguish 
between "property dualism" and "substance dualism" and I said I didn't. You 
asserted that Dennett never accused Searle of what you call "substance dualism" 
and I said he did. I gave you evidence for the latter while giving you what I 
was talking about in the two former cases. How that becomes a covert 
redefinition in mid-argument is incomprehensible because I have always made the 
distinction and have never mixed the two kinds of dualism. That, if anything, 
is in your own mind.

> a crude example would be: 'Chalmers is a dualist; and,
> Descartes is a dualist; therefore, Chalmers and Descartes are in the
> same camp.

But I don't make that case, though I do say that both are admitted dualists. We 
have seen that Chalmers calls himself a naturalistic dualist and manages it by 
proposing that consciousness cannot be reducible to any of what we now know 
about the physics of the universe but requires that we posit some added force 
or principle, akin to the bottom line forces of physics that currently include 
electromagnetism, gravity, strong nuclear attraction and weak nuclear 
attraction. He argues that physics cannot give a full account of the universe 
without positing such bottomline albeit inexplicable principles and he further 
proposes that we need at least one other principle to account for 
consciousness. Because he puts consciousness outside the realm of the other 
physical principles he argues it is an irreducible. He himself calls himself 
dualist in this regard and, given his emphasis on irreducibility, I see no 
reason to argue that point with him.

Both he and Decartes consider consciousness ontologically basic though they 
give a different account of it. So in one sense they are on the same team and 
in another they aren't. That's just how it is with their positions. 
Nevertheless, both are dualist because of the question of ontological basicness 
which, I have said here many times, I take to be more significant and useful 
than speaking about substances.

> your claims rely on the same fallacy; although, it is better concealed.

You just seem unable to get my point about dualism being to claim that there 
are at least two ontological basics in the universe underlying the things that 
we encounter.

>  >That is, a dualism of appearances isn't dualism in any meaningful
>  >sense on my view and it isn't what I am talking about when I speak of
>  >dualism (which is why it is not included in the three possibilities I
>  >sketched out).
> what I am proposing, essential property dualism, EPD, is an
> *explanatory* dualism. it explains the dualism of appearances.

And is not dualism in any serious sense as long as it is only focused on 
appearances. In that I agree with Searle (as per that article we read of his on 
the Analytic list).

> the dualism of appearances is the core problem in the philosophy of
> consciousness: how does it happen that there is subjective experience in
> an otherwise objective universe? this traditional formulation is not
> that different from my formulation: how is it that there is
> experienceable phenomena as well as measurable phenomena in a purely
> physical universe?

This boils down to how we conceive of consciousness. I am arguing, with 
Dennett, that we can account for subjectivity, subjectness, in terms of a 
description of physical processes, i.e., a process-based system. If we can, 
there is no need to posit some separate line of reduction (as Galen Strawson 
affects to do) or irreducibility that divides consciousness from the rest of 
the physical universe. If the model of consciousness I believe makes sense can 
account for subjectness, then there's no reason to look for anything else.

>  >>clearly, all physical objects have properties which are measurable;
>  >>otherwise, we'd not be able to detect them. for example,
>  >>electromagnetic radiation in the visible range has properties enabling
>  >>it to interact with photochemicals in the retina. that would be a
>  >>measurable phenomenon; but, not an experienceable phenomenon.
>  >All measurement occurs in experience since it takes an expriencing
>  >subject to measure. Moreover insofar as anything we experience can be
>  >measured we can be said to be measuring aspects of experience and, if
>  >we can do that, then we are measuring experience. Think of measuring
>  >the time we hear a musical chord, see a visual image, etc.
> I am thinking about seeing a ripe tomato. I experience seeing redness.
> someone with appropriate instruments may measure the wavelength of the
> light it reflects. these are two separate operations occurring at
> different times in the same causal sequence.

To measure the wavelengths you must have experience of other data than the 
redness you see but it's still experienced. All measuring is part of 
experience. You imagine a false dichotomy. It's just that you're measuring 
different things, different experiences. But don't forget you can also measure 
how long you are seeing the redness or how intensely red it is, etc.

>  >I don't really feel strongly motivated to go over the same stuff with
>  >you again though (especially since you never responded to my posting of
>  >evidence here that Dennett considered Searle's argument to be an
>  >example of what you like to call substance dualism -- at the least you
>  >ought to have acknowledged the information even though it went contrary
>  >to what you were suggesting at the time).
> I don't recall seeing the material you mentioned.

Convenient, that. I offered it within a few posts of your challenge to do so. 
As soon as I did, you fell silent and ceased to engage in discourse with me. 
But feel free to go back and have another look. Just go back to the post YOU 
made concerning your challenge re: that and you'll find my response soon after. 
Considering that I put in an extra hour or so transcribing the text onto this 
list, I was a little surprised, not to mention miffed, that you proceeded to 
ignore it.

>was this during the
> time you were busy denying that a physicalist account of consciousness
> assumes that von Neumann must be wrong about quantum mechanics?

That is again your interpolation. I said nothing about von Neumann's account 
because I don't know enough about it. I only know what you reported on this 
list as being his position and your position revising and purportedly refining 
his. My response was to you, not von Neumann. No need to hide behind the guy 

>  >>the interaction between light and photochemicals in the eye sends a
>  >>signal to the brain and eventually a person experiences seeing redness
>  >>(or whatever).
>  >So?
> so there is a causal sequence in which measurable effects cause
> measurable effects which cause measurable effects ... until some
> measurable effect of a previous cause causes an experienceable effect
> in addition to or instead of a measurable effect.

> hence, there are two classes of properties. those that cause measurable
> phenomena as effects and those that cause experienceable phenomena.

The wavelengths impinge on the optic nerve endings and cause the signals that 
pass along the neurological pathways into the relevant parts of the brain where 
they become the color we see. Thus the wavelengths are causal in the way 
physical things are. How the brain works to produce experience is not yet 
adequately explicated but that doesn't mean that there is some unbridgeable gap 
here, some unfathomable mystery. We just haven't full developed the description 
of how processes constitute the right kinds of systems -- yet.

>  >>that's property dualism
> if you have two sets of properties, you have property dualism.
> Joe

But it's not dualism in the way that is meaningful in this discussion if it 
isn't about a presumption of two or more ontological basics.


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